Tidally varying methane (CH 4 ) concentrations in estuaries may arise from physical advection and by chemical effects tied to varying exposure to salinity. An investigation of spatial and temporal variability in water-column CH 4 was conducted in the lower Columbia River using shipboard surveys and time series data from fixed stations. Peaks in CH 4 coincided with ebb tides at multiple sites located along the flank of the estuary adjacent to tidal flats and wetlands. High-resolution measurements taken at the outflow of a shallow lateral bay revealed that these CH 4 peaks were positively related to tidal amplitude when the lateral bay was exposed exclusively to freshwater over the tide cycle; in contrast, this relationship was inversed when brackish waters were involved. A positive relationship between tidal amplitude and CH 4 is consistent with a mechanism of tidal pumping from bottom sediments in the bay. In the presence of saltwater, however, a higher-than-expected flux of CH 4 could occur via suppression of removal processes such as biological oxidation. We present a conceptual model of tidal pumping modified by diurnal inequality in tidal amplitude and effects of salinity on sediment CH 4 oxidation to explain CH 4 variability on tidal to seasonal time-scales. The combined influences of tides and salinity likely affect CH 4 emissions in estuaries worldwide, making sea level rise and estuarine geomorphological change relevant factors for consideration when accounting for estuarine contributions to global methane budgets.
- Biogeochemical fluxes
- Tidal pumping
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science